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Candy cane case goes to Supreme Court
LaNia Coleman, Religion News Service
August 13, 2008
2 MIN READ TIME

Candy cane case goes to Supreme Court

Candy cane case goes to Supreme Court
LaNia Coleman, Religion News Service
August 13, 2008

The U.S.

Supreme Court was asked Aug. 11 to consider whether a fifth-grade

student’s religious expression on a classroom project can be considered

“offensive” and subject to censorship by school officials.

In December

2003, Joel Curry, then 11, made candy cane-style Christmas ornaments with a

note that school officials considered “religious literature.” The

note attached to the ornaments, titled “The Meaning of the Candy

Cane,” referred to Jesus six times and God twice.

Curry, who

copied the message from an ornament at a Christian bookstore, is now a rising

sophomore at Heritage High School in Saginaw, Mich.

It’s

unfortunate it has to be pushed this far,” said his father, Paul Curry.

“When children step out in the world, they have to deal with different

faiths and religions. It’s a good way for teachers to educate students as long

as no one is proselytizing or pushing it down someone’s throat.”

At the time,

the boy made the ornaments as part of a classroom project in which students

develop and “sell” products. School officials told the youngster to

remove the message, even though he received an A on the assignment.

Attorneys filed

a lawsuit against the Saginaw School District and the school’s principal in

2004, arguing that school officials violated the boy’s right to equal

protection because students previously had been allowed to sell

religious-themed items.

In 2005, a

federal judge ruled in favor of the boy, but a three-judge panel for the 6th

U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned that decision.

The new suit

seeks reimbursement of legal fees and clarification of the district’s policy on

religious speech.

“Penalizing Christian students for expressing their beliefs in the

classroom is unacceptable under the Constitution,” said Jeff Shafer, the

senior legal counsel with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which

petitioned the high court to hear the case.

“The First

Amendment exists to protect private speakers, not to enable religious discrimination

by government officials. The court of appeals’ unprecedented classification of

student religious speech as an `offense’ worthy of censorship should be

reversed.”